2012-02-27

Life in a Wormhole: The Talk #eveonline

This post doesn't have any spaceship explosions going on -- it's something I've debated writing up, because it's nothing but the drama that comes from not vetting a new member of your corporation well enough before bringing them into a wormhole. I don't like drama, I don't like these kinds of talks, and I especially don't like reliving the whole thing while I write it all down.

But I think it's important to see, and maybe something that can act as a cautionary tale both for the potential recruiter and for the would-be wormhole pilot about to embark on a grand new adventure. Caveat nauta, or something like that.



Cabbage had conveniently logged in the night before, while I and Em were tweaking our towers and planning for worst-case scenarios, and we took the opportunity to get him on voice comms and talk through "The Dolby Problem." The conversation went well, even if it's a little uncomfortable telling someone else how to keep their own house -- Em and I were both pretty adamant that the guy needed to go, but Cabbage agreed with all our reasons.

In the end, though, it didn't look like it was going to go exactly to plan; Em logged out a bit before I did, so I was the only other person on when Cabbage said that he had "sent Dolby an email telling him what he needed to change and that he needed to shape up immediately."

I wasn't thrilled.

Don't get me wrong; I don't like confrontation any more than the next guy, but to be perfectly honest there's a point at which a guy forfeits his second chance. Still, it is Cabbage's house to keep, and I knew he would own the problem, regardless of how his decision played out.

Anyway, it was late, so I let be and signed off for the night.

The next day, Dolby is online and silent, lurking in Cabbage's tower shields. I have plenty of other things to deal with, however, so I simply continued with shoring up defenses and moving expensive, non-essential items to the fasting at Helm's Deep known-space, getting some awesome help from Berke, who stows his Orca and jumps into his stealthy Crane-class transport. I watch him warp out on his way through a convoluted series of jumps that will bring him to high security space through abandoned or nearly-abandoned wormhole systems, when Dolby asks to speak with me on voice comms.

"This probably isn't going to go the way he's expecting," I mutter to Em as I flip over to Dolby's channel.

"What's up?"

"I have this email here from Cabbage, man, and it's got me pretty wound up," he begins. "I mean, it's full of all this stuff to do and to not do, and how all of it is non-negotiable -- I tell you what, I left sov-held null-sec space cuz I got sick of people telling you what to do and when to do it and controlling every aspect of the game."

I nod, because Dolby's filled me (and everyone else who will listen) in on the horrors of the null-sec alliance he was in, where those in authority would do stuff like issue a call-to-arms and force members to participate by temporarily changing the tax-rate to 100% to make any other activity BUT the CTA a complete waste of time. It sounded pretty bad, but my pity was leavened by the fact that he had been there because he chose to be... and because I no longer believed anything he said that I could not directly verify.

Mostly that second thing.

"Before we go any further into this conversation," I say. "I think you need to understand that I know about Cabbage's email. I disagree with it, but only because I don't think it goes far enough. I asked Cabbage to get you out of the system, permanently, and he decided to give you another chance. So, I'm willing to listen to what you have to say, but I want you to know that if you're looking for an ally in a bitch-session, you and I are currently standing on opposite sides of a fence."

There is a long silence. "Okay."

"As for comparing the basic safety requirements of living in a wormhole to the mandatory call-to-arms and strangling tax rates of a null-sec alliance, I think you're being ridiculous and over-dramatic. Cabbage is explaining that you live in a new neighborhood now, and you need to know how to cross the street safely, and your response so far has been to play in the middle of that street and compare his rules to some abusive relationship you just got out of. It doesn't fly."

"I've been careful."

"You have lost, on average, one ship for every single day you've been a member of Cabbage's corporation," I reply. "Plus two or three pods, which shouldn't even be possible in the systems where you lost them. That's not an argument in your favor."

"I know how to live in wormholes," he persists. "I lived in here with Cabbage back when he first moved in. Hell, I found the wormhole for him and introduced him to the head of this Alliance in the first place!"

I nod, and don't bother telling him that the head of the Alliance summed up his history with Dolby to me by saying 'He was a moron then, and he's a moron now' -- it won't help. "It's a bit easier to find a wormhole, or visit them for a few hours with a null-sec gang, than it is to live in it day in and day out. I think you can concede that."

"Sure, but I'm being careful," he insists. "When I'm mining in the system, I'm hitting d-scan every couple seconds."

I look over the webpage detailing the loss of his mining barge a few days ago. "You were mining in our system, which means the Isolated Core field?"

"Yeah."

"The one that has the electrical field that does damage to every ship on the grid, every minute or so?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah. See, that tells me that it's impossible for a cloaked ship to have crept up on you, because the damage would decloak them. That means he warped into the site and in on top of you, which means he had to use probes to find you. You didn't see them, so I don't think you were hitting d-scan every few --"

"I saw them," he interrupts, and as interruptions go, it's a pretty good one -- I'm left silent for a good ten seconds.

"I'm sorry, you saw the probes?"

"Yeah. I saw probes. I didn't figure anyone could find me that fast."

"If you see probes," I say, "you should already be warping out. I know from personal experience: if you see probes, he's already in warp to you."

"I don't see how I could have done it differently."

"Mine with other people," I reply. "Get someone on overwatch. Don't mine when the entrance out to known space is open. Maybe don't go out and salvage wrecks a few hours later and lose a second ship in the same day, to a guy in the same corporation."

"That was just a coincidence."

This guy has a talent for leaving me speechless. I actually get up and go get a soda at this point, because I'm not going to say anything constructive in the next minute or two anyway.

"There really isn't such a thing as a coincidence in a wormhole," I say when I sit back down. "I understand you've spent a lot of time in null-sec, with hostile neighbors maybe four or five jumps away, so the possibility of two completely unrelated guys from the same corp jumping you, six hours apart -- that's a thing that seems completely believable as a coincidence. It doesn't work that way out here. Ever."

"But the guy that got my Noctis must have just found me," Dolby protests, "because I was shooting sleepers with two Drakes before that for at least an hour and he didn't do anything."

"Nooo..." I keep my voice level. "He was in a cloaky tengu. He saw what you were doing, knew you'd need a salvager, so we waited for you to go get it, and then blew it up."

"Are you trying to tell me..." The tone in Dolby's voice tells me that he thinks I am completely crazy... "that some guy sat there, watching my two Drakes for an hour, and didn't do anything to them, but waited to attack my salvaging ship? Why would he do that?"

The facepalm is strong with this one.


"Why would..." I stare at the ceiling. "Because that's what people do in a wormhole. They lie in wait, cloaked, and mug soft targets."

"Who does that?" he scoffs. "No one I know."

"Everyone you know," I counter. "There isn't a pilot in here that doesn't have a cloaky ship they can use to go hunting from wormhole to wormhole in the hopes of finding a soft target -- *I* have at least six that have no other purpose. Out here, that is what you do when there's nothing else to do. It's the main pastime. It's like..." I wave my hands around as if the right word can be snatched out of the air. "It's like whittling."

"Listen," I say, cutting off yet another protest. "The stuff we're going over here, this is all very very basic stuff. This is the reality of wormholes. Someone is always watching you. Someone is always lining up a shot or waiting for you to make a stupid mistake, and you have to consciously and constantly work to deny them that chance, or know exactly why you're taking that risk." I take a drink of my soda, and the comms are silent. "This isn't something you need to learn -- it isn't something you need to get used to -- this is something that needs to sound like fun, or you will never last out here. You will, in fact, continue to lose a ship every single day you log in. Period."

Dolby says nothing. Five minutes later, he logs off the comms.
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